CD (ltd. 300)
Umpio is the solo project of the Finnish sound explorer Pentti Dassum, a member of numerous bands with incredible stylistic coverage from noise-grind (Romutus) to challenging electroacoustic experiments (SM/DP) and unpredictable brutal noise performed on self-built metal objects.
However there's no junk noise this time – "Insektio" is made from massive oscillations, electronic microsounds and tape manipulations. Like a heavy trip into nature, listen with one ear to the ground, how all the insects work, how temperature shifts affect the resonance of the planet, and how civilizations crumble away as only the frogs and moss will survive...
The physical edition is presented in two versions: a CD limited to 300 copies in a matte 4-panel digisleeve and an audio cassette with full-body UV-print, limited to 100 copies. The digital version is available on bandcamp.
People often look to space when they think about strange lifeforms that we, if we ever meet them, might struggle to understand. The annals of sci-fi and horror are full of another alternative though, that of the insect world scuttling around beneath our feet. Insektio is an experimental noise album from Umpio, one that takes this chitinous world of insects as its muse, and comes out the other side with flakes of exoskeleton stuck to its lips.
So what does Insektio sound like? Well, it’s a screeching, popping, buzzing, clicking, rumbling, darting collection of tracks, each with its own feel. Some sound like they might be the audio equivalent of mandibles clacking and cutting. Others like insects might sound if they were somehow upgraded into weaponised military tools, like a thundering beetle-like attack chopper thumping over the horizon. I know that the album title and artwork frames the impressions that you are likely to get, but the tracks really do seem to embody the alien-like qualities of insects and their movements. It’s really fun to listen to.
My favourite track is probably the first one: Nocturnal Trigger Patterns. I think this is because it was this track that pulled back the veil and made me realize how rich the album would be for impressions and interpretations. It begins with an ear to ear screeching, rustling, thumping sound, hisses emerging from a sea of digital static. It felt like millions of tiny legs scratching along wooden beams. A high whining tone appears, one not unlike a retro 80s sci-fi UFO might make. A buzzing begins, pulsing in regular intervals, deeper bass tones giving the track more heft. Some of the notes I wrote about the images flowing through my mind included “demonic ticking clock”, “Military cockroach” and “snuffling pig eating”.
Another track that stood out for me is Asymmetrical Phonotaxis. It starts with small trills and beeps, with bass tones fluttering beneath things. After the business of previous tracks, this one felt chilled and restful by comparison. A boiling static begins, and then the sound that I really enjoyed, a sound that seemed like tens of metal cans rolling down a junk-yard pile of scrap. A dark hissing sits over things, and I half wondered if some kind of insect was using the cans as their new homes, snail-shell style. The thought of a junk-yard of tin cans scuttling around on slender legs made me smile. When the insects seize control, I hope they will be kinder to us than we are to them.
Wing Movement Communication is also a fun track, one with some very interesting sounds. After the darting fuzzy tones and echoes at the start, things turn a bit grainy, with a cascading sand-like feeling. There are impressions of scuttling, cloaking things in an itchy blanket of little legs. Some of the tones take on the aspect of a clipped elephant trumpeting call, the echoes and shrills chased by more scurrying movement. If the insects are communicating, I can only wonder about what they might be saying.
Insektio is an album that paints a compelling audio impression of a world that we often ignore. I don’t think any of the sounds could be considered as pleasant, but when taken as a whole, each track becomes a smoother kind of whole. Maybe when you pour so many harsh or strong sounds into the mix, they inevitably knock a few of the harder edges from each other. I was also surprised at the richness of the mental impressions that arose in my mind, as I don’t tend to listen to albums that might fall nearer the “noise” end of the spectrum. A fine album.
Behind Umpio we find Pentti Dassum. You may know him from SM/DP, of whom I reviewed work in Vital Weekly 1290 or his "noise grind" project Romutus; or, maybe, his banging on metal objects. As Umpio he worked with Irr.App (ext.) (see Vital Weekly 918) and he had a release before on Zhelezebeton, where he now returns with 'Insektio'. Umpio uses a wide variety of sound devices in his work, according to the information, without being all too specific about what these are. This too leads to noise music, but it is the kind of noise that I like. It is not the loud noise, for the sake of putting on a racket, but in these electronic pieces there, Umpio uses complex combinations of sound sources, struggling for your attention and are set against continuous drones from small synthesizers. That leads to nine strong compositions, which all have a psychedelic quality to them. Maybe it is the busy, ever-changing character of the music, the rainbow coloured electronics that made me think of this. It is a trip, but pleasant unpleasant one, if you catch my drift. This music is the soundtrack to the apocalypse, or whatever comes next. Buzzing, whirring and charging, faulty electricity and gas leaking out of rusty pipes. You know the drill. With radio waves, modular synthesizers, field recordings and such (I am merely guessing here), Umpio offer an excellent variety in approaches here. Play it loud and notice the details, some are quite hidden. Loud music, for sure, but one can do without the walls of screaming feedback.